"Buy my book about the Roussillon on Amazon UK in paperback or eBook or black & white version, and Amazon USA: paperback or eBook or black & white. OR BUY IT DIRECT FROM ME (UK & EU only). Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap on the link above the cover photo (below right)." Richard Mark James

30 September 2007

John Platter Guide 2008

The John Platter Wine Guide, South Africa's benchmark annual guide (actually, it recently got the 2007 Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Award in the latter category) published by Andrew McDowall and edited by Philip van Zyl, has revealed a record 21 'five-star' wines in the forthcoming 2008 edition. "Given the enormous number of ranges and individual products tasted, the wines which merit a five-star rating make up a very select group indeed," McDowall explained. "The Guide, which strives to rate, as far as is practically possible, all of the wines that are available for the duration of the particular edition, locally as well as abroad, tasted and assessed nearly 6000 individual wines over several months." The asbestos-palated team of tasters ranked them on the guide's five-point scale, ranging from 0 ("Somewhat less than ordinary") up to 5 ("Superlative. A Cape classic"). Their top wines include a few recurring names such as Ken Forrester, Bouchard Finlayson, Vergelegen and Kanonkop. For more info or to buy the guide, check out www.platteronline.com. Posted 28/9/07.

28 September 2007

Sensation Vin autumn courses Beaune, Lyon and Paris

Damien Delattre, owner of the Sensation Vin wine school in Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy, has 'rolled out' their autumn tasting program with tailor-made courses and weekend events now available in English. These include new ideas such as tutored tastings of classic Burgundies from the 1990s. Another novelty is the Sensation Vin 'road show', where Damien or one of his qualified colleagues will come to Paris or Lyon to create your own group tasting experience. 1 rue d'Enfer (Hell street!), 21200 Beaune. Tel: +33.3.80.22.17.57.
www.sensation-vin.com, contact@sensation-vin.com.

26 September 2007

BK Wine Tours autumn 07 & spring 08

In commendably un-PC style, BK Wine aka Britt and Per Karlsson, Paris' most famous vinous Swedes, are running a tour called Truffle, wine, duck and foie gras in the south west of France from February 13-17th 2008. I can understand vegetarians getting upset about foie gras, and I know it's not a very nice way to rear birds (although the result is too delicious to think about what those goose farmers actually get up to...); but I find it baffling when regular meat-eating folk (like in California or the UK or Ireland for example) condemn it, yet carry on scoffing steak or whatever.
Anyway, enough of the rant. Click on the highlighted link above if this sounds right up your street. Britt is also doing a wine tour to Portugal's stunning Alentejo region this October 17-21. And the busy couple has just published a book on the Languedoc, although only in Swedish at the moment: interested English language publishers should get in touch. For more info or sign up to Britt's newsletter: info@bkwine.com. Posted 28/9/07.
Update on BK's wine tour programme for 2008 on www.bkwine.com.

21 September 2007

2007 vintage looking good in south of France

2007 vintage looking good in south of France

I knocked this techie/weathery report together at the end of August, with updated paragraphs slotted in on 21st September, for a couple of publications. More to follow once I've been out and about further across the region...
In contrast to the doom and gloom and ‘earliest on record’ hyperbole elsewhere in France, it’s business as usual or a reserved rather good even in the south. A mix of cool and hot weather from early to mid August followed by rain then several very hot days towards the end of the month, have turned a slightly late start to picking into normal conditions then could all be over quickly.
In Bandol on the Provence coast, Eric de Saint Victor at Château de Pibarnon described vintage dates as “about the same as last year, ahead of those in the 90s but usual nowadays.” Grenache is “already well in advance showing nice phenolic ripeness” with one batch picked on 28th August. As for Mourvèdre, they were looking to wait “at least another 10 days.” Generally, there was less of a drought problem this year with late spring rain interspersed with hot periods, a regular cooler June and “normal July and August: hot, dry and windy.”
Following a 10mm splash of rain at the end of August, fine weather continued into September prompting a rapid change of tune. The last Mourvèdre came in on 18-19 Sept. at Pibarnon signalling “the earliest finish since we’ve been here, i.e. 30 years,” according to Saint Victor. “Ten to fifteen years ago we’d hardly started picking the Mourvèdre.” He estimated yields will be down 25% due to small berry size with elegant balanced wines: “black-coloured, fine tannins, nice acidity and typical alcohol levels towards 14% for reds and 13.5 for rosé and white.”
This pattern was echoed in the Languedoc and Roussillon. Marc Barriot of Clos de l’Origine in Maury (Roussillon) also didn’t observe any vine stress describing conditions as “normal then looking a little late then speeded up by the heat.” Potential alcohol levels suddenly rose 1 to 1.5° in one day. All his white varieties (Muscat, Grenache Gris and Macabeu) were picked between the middle and end of August, and the reds appear to be “ahead but it depends on the weather.” Like Barriot, Jonathan Hesford of Domaine Treloar in Trouillas remarked on “higher acidity this year,” meaning “picking started a bit later” with Muscat à petits grains on 28th August. He predicted Syrah for the first week of September, Grenache a week later and Mourvèdre “maybe the end of September or early October.” Philippe Gard at Coume del Mas in Banyuls commented: “we started 10 days later but ripening is more even so will finish earlier. Grenache and Syrah are looking very good, but it depends on the grower,” referring to isolated mildew problems.
Favourable conditions continued into September in the Roussillon with some light rain on Friday 14th then a dramatic, half-an-hour hailstorm on the evening of Monday 17th. However, Gard described it as “nothing serious even if spectacular.” He added: “I finished picking for Banyuls on Monday morning, and we’ve managed to make a nice batch of Mourvèdre; just the Carignan and more Mourvèdre to follow, as the skins weren’t ripe. Very low yields exacerbated by the wind.” Barriot also reported everything wrapped up with the last parcel of Syrah and Carignan going into vat on Wednesday 19th. “Plenty of substance, nice acidity and lots of fruit,” he concluded. Hesford confirmed he lost a few bunches from the storm but finished picking most of his Mourvèdre on 21st Sept. (with a little help from yours truly, well a few boxes anyway!): “very healthy grapes and that initial high acidity has almost disappeared.”
In the Languedoc, Richard Lavanoux, production manager at Michel Laroche’s winery near Béziers, agreed about the quality: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a great vintage, especially for Syrah,” following a ripening period of “rare quality” thanks to more even summer temperatures. Marion Figuette at Château La Roque in Pic St-Loup, eastern Languedoc, reported picking started early: whites were all in last week and reds the first week of September. Over in Corbières, “2007 is slightly ahead of 2006 with Syrah starting this Friday (31 Aug) and the first Grenache and Carignan in the earlier ripening coastal zones on 6 or 7 September,” according to Jean Pierre Thene, head of the AOC Corbières Syndicat. The picture is different inland in the western Aude, where grapes should come in much later than usual thanks to cooler conditions. Thene stressed that the Languedoc-Roussillon “should not be seen as part of this very average vintage elsewhere.”
The Monday night storm also hit the Languedoc, although Figuette at La Roque described the downpour as “perfect for our Mourvèdre! Otherwise everything is over and it’s looking like a very promising vintage.” Lavanoux agreed the storm did more good than harm. In contrast - "unfortunately" according to Jean-Pierre Thene - the Corbières were spared the downpour: "we've seen very little rain since April, which combined with strong northerly winds will mean low yields from berry concentration." However, acidity and high sugar levels are nicely balanced, with Carignan, Grenache and Cinsaut being the best performers; and Syrah and Mourvèdre less adapted to the hot dry summer. Thene believes they may have to rethink the latter varieties in Corbières AOC zones thanks to climate change.
RJ posted 2/9/07 and 21/9/07.


01 September 2007

Malbec Made for Meat

An equally mouth-watering, determined-to-upset-vegetarians contest brought to you by Wines of Argentina in conjunction with Wine & Spirit magazine, the Hotel du Vin & Bistro Group and Gaucho Restaurants. The plan? The blurb says: "Malbec Made for Meat is a UK quest to find the Malbec or Malbec-based wine from Argentina that best matches traditional British meat dishes." Sounds like a fun idea. They've held three heats in Glasgow, Harrogate and Brighton (well done for getting out of London too); and the final will be held on 12th September at Gaucho's W1 restaurant. By the way, apparently the average Argentinean eats 68kg of beef per annum!
At the first heat, tasting Malbecs with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at Hotel du Vin & Bistro in Glasgow’s West End, one of the judges, wine writer Tom Cannavan, commented that "the wines drunk with the beef generally worked well, and the first and second placed wines really worked in harmony." The heat winner was Bodegas Catena Zapata Malbec 2004, from Mendoza (Majestic £10.99); and runners up Masi Tupungato Paso Doble 2005, Mendoza (Oddbins £8.99); Co-op Argentine Malbec 2006, San Juan (£2.99); and Asda's Argentine Malbec 2006, La Rioja (£3.78).
In Harrogate, the meat was roast lamb with 'all the trimmings'. "For anyone who thought they'd mastered Argentine Malbec," said judge Joe Fattorini, "this tasting revealed what a chameleon grape it is, turning from brooding and burly to aromatic and balletic with the lift of a fork." Heat winner was Familia Zuccardi Q Malbec 2004, Mendoza (Alliance Wine RRP £9.99); and runners up Fincas Patagonicas, Tapiz Malbec 2005, Mendoza (Hispa Merchants RRP £5.99); Bodega Mendel, Unus Malbec 2004, Mendoza (Prestige Agencies RRP £19.99 or Handford Wines); Bodegas Catena Zapata Alta Malbec 2004, Mendoza (Bibendum RRP £29.99); Bodegas Salentein, Malbec 2004, Mendoza (£8.49 Tesco); and Bodegas Valentin Bianchi, Malbec Particular 2003 (Liberty Wines RRP £9.99).
The Brighton tasters stuffed their faces with roast pork while trying these wines: heat winner Dona Paula Malbec 2005, Mendoza (Oddbins £9.49); runners up Bodegas O Fournier, Alpha Crux Malbec 2004, Mendoza (Seckfords RRP £19.99); Bodega O Fournier, Urban Uco Malbec 2004, Mendoza (Seckfords RRP £5.99); Gougenheim Malbec 2005, Mendoza (Las Bodegas RRP £6.99); and Bodega NQN, Reserve Malbec 2004, Neuquen Patagonia (Hispa Merchants £8.99). Interesting to note they're not all expensive posh wines that were picked by the judges. Anyway, call back in September for an update on the winning wines or check out winesofargentina.com.ar. Posted 1/08/07.
Update Sept: Bodega Catena Zapata’s Alta Malbec 2004 "took top spot as the wine to have with meat" in the gripping carnivore final, which took place at Gaucho's in Piccadilly, London, and was also deemed the 'Best with Lamb' wine. The Viña Doña Paula 2005 Malbec replicated its regional success winning 'Best with Pork'; but in the hottest contested category, Gouguenheim Malbec 2005 and Catena Malbec 2004 "proved impossible to separate" and so both won the 'Best with Beef' award (the most important, you would've thought given the Argentinean penchant for beef).

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